The Cold War Constraints on the Nuclear Energy Option. March 13, 2019.
Shortly before uranium miner Gus Frobel died of lung cancer in 1978 he said, “This is reality. If we want energy, coal or uranium, lives will be lost. And I think society wants energy and they will find men willing to go into coal or uranium.” Frobel understood that governments had crunched the numbers. They had calculated how many miners died comparatively in coal and uranium production to produce energy. More
Only Dramatic Reductions in Energy Use Will Save The World From Climate Catastrophe. March 1, 2019.
There is no longer any debate. Humanity sits at the precipice of catastrophic climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recent reports provide clear assessments: to limit global warming to 1.5ºC above historic levels, thereby avoiding the most harmful consequences, governments, communities, and individuals around the world must take immediate steps to decarbonize their societies and economies. More
Did Colonialism Cause Global Cooling? Revisiting an Old Controversy. February 22, 2019.
Roughly 11,000 years ago, rising sea levels submerged Beringia, the vast land bridge that once connected the Old and New Worlds. Vikings and perhaps Polynesians briefly established a foothold in the Americas, but it was the voyage of Columbus in 1492 that firmly restored the ancient link between the world’s hemispheres. Plants, animals, and pathogens – the microscopic agents of disease – never before seen in the Americas now arrived in the very heart of the western hemisphere. More
Next Generation Nuclear? February 13, 2019.
Climate change is here to stay. So too for the next several millennia is radioactive fallout from nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. Earthlings will also live with radioactive products from the production and testing of nuclear weapons. The question as to whether next generation nuclear power plants will be “perfectly safe” appears to decline in importance as we consider the catastrophic outcome of climate change. More
Closing Nuclear Plants Will Increase Climate Risks. January 30, 2019.
On March 28, 1979, I woke up late and rushed to catch the bus to my suburban high school in Rockville MD. So it wasn't until I found my friends clustered around the radio in the cafeteria that I learned seventy-seven miles upwind of us, Three Mile Island Reactor Unit 2 was in partial meltdown. More
Environmental Historians Debate: Can Nuclear Power Solve Climate Change? January 29, 2019.
This series focuses on what environmental and energy historians can bring to discussions about nuclear power. It is a tripartite effort between Active History, the Climate History Network (CHN), and the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), and will be cross-posted across all three platforms. The series is co-edited by a member of each of those websites: professors Jim Clifford, Dagomar Degroot, and Daniel Macfarlane. More
Reconstructing Africa's Climate: Solving the Riddle of Rainfall. November 16, 2018.
To grasp the significance of global warming, and to confirm its connection to human activity, you have to know how climate has changed in the past. Scholars of past climate change know that understanding how climate has varied over historical timescales requires access to robust long-term datasets. This is not a problem for regions such as Europe and North America, which have a centuries-long tradition of recording weather with instruments. More
Two Decades from Disaster? The IPCC's "Global Warming of 1.5° C." October 11, 2018.
International climate change agreements have long aimed at limiting anthropogenic global warming to 2°C Celsius, relative to so-called “pre-industrial” averages. Yet in early 2015, more than 70 scientists contributed to a report that warned about then-poorly understood dangers of warming short of 2° C. Several months later, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Paris and reached an agreement to keep global warming to “well below” 2° C. The Paris Agreement invited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare a special Assessment Report. More
Is There a Better Way To Do Climate History? Testing a Quantitative Approach. August 31, 2018
Until recently, it was notoriously difficult to connect today’s extreme weather with the gradual trends of climate change. Scientists shied away from saying, for example, that catastrophic droughts or severe hurricanes reflected the influence of anthropogenic global warming. More
Are Woodland Caribou Doomed by Climate Change? July 26, 2018.
In May 2018, woodland caribou were declared functionally extinct in the United States. Across the Canadian north, woodland caribou have disappeared from roughly half their 19th century range. Is climate change dooming woodland caribou? Or are managers using climate change as an excuse to avoid making difficult policy decisions? More
A Conversation with Dr. Dagomar Degroot: Resilience and Adaptation in the Little Ice Age. June 15, 2018.
In the eighth episode of the Climate History Podcast, PhD candidate Robynne Mellor (Georgetown University) interviews Dr. Dagomar Degroot, director of HistoricalClimatology.com, about his new book: The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720. Dr. Degroot is an assistant professor of environmental history at Georgetown University, where his research focuses on societal adaptation and resilience to climate change, and the environmental history of outer space. More
Ecological Militarism: The History of the Military’s Relationship with Climate Change. May 25, 2018.
Many historians have discussed the influence of the Cold War on the development of specific disciplines within the broader field of earth science. However, few have touched on U.S. military’s study of climate change, an interest that accelerated during the Cold War. The decades-long studies sponsored by the Departments of Defense and Energy in the Cold War produced led to many attempts to transform the earth itself into a political and environmental weapon. More
Introducing the Tipping Points Project. April 30, 2018.
In late 2016, Randall Bass, vice provost for education at Georgetown University, asked me to help design and teach a pilot project at Georgetown University that would experiment with a new way of introducing climate change to undergraduate students. The Core Pathway on Climate Change initiative, as we came to call it, allowed students to mix and match seven-week courses - "modules" - to find their own pathway through the scholarship of climate change. More
The Coming Climate Crisis. Foreign Policy
How Climate Change Caused the World's First Ever Empire to Collapse. The Conversation
The Melting Arctic Is a Real-Time Horror Story — Why Doesn’t Anyone Care? Rolling Stone
The Last Time Humans Engineered the Climate, They Changed History. Axios
A Frozen History of Climate Change. The Guardian
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